The latest information on the coronavirus pandemic from around the world.

BEIJING — China has reported no new cases in Hubei, the original epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak, and zero locally transmitted cases across mainland China over the past day, for the first time in the past eight weeks.

The National Health Commission, however, counted 34 new cases of “imported” infections among travelers who came from abroad.

Beijing has enacted a series of measures to prevent a second wave of COVID-19 infections, including mandatory quarantine for all international arrivals to the capital and the redirection of some inbound flights.

Republican House member from Florida tests positive for coronavirus

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., on Wednesday said he tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the first member of Congress to test positive for the virus.

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, center, R-Fla., shown in May 2019, has tested positive for the coronavirus, he said Wednesday. Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

According to a statement, Diaz-Balart said he decided to self-quarantine in Washington after votes on Friday, opting not to return to South Florida because his wife has pre-existing health conditions “that put her at exceptionally high risk.”

Diaz-Balart developed symptoms on Saturday and was recently notified that he has tested positive, according to the statement.

“I want everyone to know that I am feeling much better. However, it is important that everyone take this extremely seriously and follow CDC guidelines in order to avoid getting sick and mitigate the spread of this virus,” he wrote. “We must continue to work together to emerge stronger as a country during these trying times.”

Up to 500 nonresidents stranded in Panama

Between 400 and 500 nonresidents are stranded in Panama after attending a music festival, with many of them being quarantined at the concert site near the Caribbean beach of Playa Chiquita.

Organizer James Baker of Manchester, England said those attending the event, called Tribal Gathering, included people from Spain, Canada, the United States, Denmark, France, Great Britain, and Hungary, as well as Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile and Mexico.

Baker said authorities in Panama had instituted a requirement that all those seeking to leave had to prove they had been in Panama for at least 14 days amid the new coronavirus outbreak. Most of the estimated 2,300 attendees at the event, which ran from Feb. 29 to March 15, have been able to leave.

But Baker said Wednesday that many of the remaining festival goers and staff may need help getting back to their home countries due to flight and transport cancellations related to the outbreak

New York Stock Exchange to temporarily close trading floor after 2 traders test positive

The New York Stock Exchange will temporarily close its iconic trading floor in lower Manhattan and move to all-electronic trading beginning Monday as a precautionary step after two people tested positive for COVID-19.

The trading floors of the NYSE and the NYSE American Options market in New York will be closed, as well as that of the NYSE Arca Options in San Francisco.

The moves comes after a member of the NYSE’s trading floor community and an employee of the exchange tested positive for the virus on Monday, according to International Exchange, the parent company of the NYSE.

Both individuals last entered the NYSE building on Friday. On Saturday, the trading floor and common spaces in the facility were sanitized, the company said.

The exchanges will continue to operate under normal trading hours, said Stacey Cunningham, the NYSE’s president.

Several thousand brokers and others used to crowd the trading floor of the NYSE as recently as the 1990s. But in the years since, the rise of electronic trading grew to dominate the action on Wall Street. These days, there are about 500 floor traders at the NYSE, said Josh King, a spokesman for Intercontinental Exchange.

U.S. Census Bureau suspends field operations for 2 weeks

ORLANDO, Fla. — A week after starting its 2020 count, the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday suspended field operations for two weeks out of concern about the health and safety of its workers and the U.S. public from the novel coronavirus.

Census Bureau officials said they were continuing to monitor all operations related to the once-a-decade head count amid the global pandemic. As of Wednesday, 11 million households had answered the census questions.

Most census workers won’t head into the field until May, when they’ll knock on the doors of homes that haven’t turned in their questionnaires. But some workers are already in the field, primarily working on counts for college students, nursing homes, prisons and other institutions, as well as places with no fixed addresses.

Census historian Margo Anderson called the move unprecedented.

Cancer, heart surgeries delayed as coronavirus alters care

Some cancer surgeries are being delayed, many stent procedures for clogged arteries have been pushed back and infertility specialists were asked to postpone helping patients get pregnant. Doctors in virtually every field are scrambling to alter care as the new coronavirus spreads.

Medical groups issued advice this week on how hospitals and doctors should adapt as beds and supplies are pinched and worries rise about exposing patients to possible infection. That includes canceling elective surgeries, including many for slow-growing or early-stage cancers, which many people would consider not elective at all.

Luciano Orsini’s operation, set for April 1 at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, was pushed to April 29. He lost one kidney to cancer last year and was eager for this surgery to remove tumors on the sole kidney he has left.

“I don’t want it to get any larger,” Orsini said of his cancer, which his doctor says it’s growing so slowly that he should be safe waiting. He understands but said: “The anxiety of just have this inside of you and not knowing and wanting to get it out” is hard.

Choices like this are happening across the United States, said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society.

“We are going to face ethical dilemmas, not just in cancer care but in medical care in general,” he said. “We recognize that any delay is not good but we may not have a choice.”

The cancer society on Tuesday urged people to forgo mammograms, colonoscopies and other routine cancer screenings until the outbreak eases.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, also addressed the issue Tuesday, telling hospitals and dentists: “Things that don’t need to be done over the next two weeks, don’t get it done.”

Medical care is being rescheduled for unplanned reasons, too: On Tuesday, Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston canceled all patient appointments after a staff member tested positive for the virus.

Stocks fall, wiping out nearly all gains under Trump presidency

NEW YORK — Stocks closed sharply lower on Wednesday as fears of a prolonged coronavirus-induced recession take hold.

The Dow industrials lost more than 1,300 points, or 6.3 percent.

After a brutal few weeks, the Dow has now lost nearly all of its gains since President Trump’s inauguration.

Wednesday’s losses deepened after a temporary halt was triggered in the early afternoon. Even prices for investments seen as very safe, like longer-term U.S. Treasurys, fell as investors rushed to raise cash.

The price of oil fell 24 percent and dropped below $21 per barrel for the first time since 2002.

Markets have been incredibly volatile for weeks as Wall Street and the White House acknowledge the rising likelihood that the outbreak will cause a recession. The typical day this month has seen the stock market swing up or down by 4.9 percent. Over the last decade, it was just 0.4 percent.

Read more about what happened today on Wall Street here.

CDC reports that 4 out of 5 COVID-19 deaths in U.S. are people 65 and older

Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. mirror what’s been reported in other countries, with about 4 out of 5 deaths occurring in people 65 and older and no deaths in kids, according to a new federal report.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the findings on Wednesday, in a look at more than 4,200 U.S. cases reported from Feb. 12 to March 16. Officials had limited information, with data on the ages of about 2,500 of them.

Drawing from available information, researchers found about a third of the reported cases were in people 65 and older, but retirement-age Americans made up the bulk of people who suffered severe illness.

More than half of coronavirus patients admitted to hospital intensive care units were 65 and older, the CDC reported. No one 19 or under was admitted to an ICU, the CDC said.

The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 82,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

Treasury wants to send checks to Americans, starting April 6

WASHINGTON  — The Treasury Department wants to start issuing direct payments to Americans by early next month as the centerpiece of a $1 trillion plan to stabilize the economy as the coronavirus epidemic threatens a body slam to taxpayers and businesses.

In a memorandum issued Wednesday, Treasury is calling for two $250 billion cash infusions to individuals: A first set of checks issued starting April 6, with a second wave in mid-May. The amounts would depend on income and family size.

The Treasury plan, which requires approval by Congress, also recommends $50 billion to stabilize the airlines, $150 billion to issue loan guarantees to other struggling sectors, and $300 billion to for small businesses. The plan appears to anticipate that many of the loans would not be repaid.

Read the full story here.

White House postpones state visit by Spanish king and queen

WASHINGTON — The White House is postponing an upcoming state visit by Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The visit, including a black-tie state dinner to be hosted by President Trump and first lady Melania Trump, had been announced for April 21.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham cited the coronavirus pandemic in announcing the postponement on Wednesday.

She said in a statement that the decision was made so the U.S. and Spain can “continue to devote their full resources and attention” to responding to the crisis. Grisham said the Trumps look forward to welcoming the royals “in the near future.”

The state visit would have been the third under Trump. French President Emmanuel Macron received the honor in April 2018, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in September 2019.

Spain has been on indefinite lockdown as the country struggles to control infections and deaths caused by the coronavirus.

Read more about the cancellation here.

Cruise ship with infections heads to France

The trans-Atlantic cruise ship Costa Luminosa, which has several COVID-19 cases among its passengers, is heading for the French Mediterranean port of Marseille.

More than 200 Americans are among the over 1,400 people on the cruise that French authorities say will arrive in Marseille port waters Thursday. It’s not known if French authorities will let the ship in. It’s unlikely they will let the passengers disembark, given the current stringent anti-virus movement rules imposed in the country.

The ship was allowed to stop in Tenerife in Spain on Sunday and offload three people who needed to be evacuated and hospitalized. The ship had initially been denied permission to dock but the ministry gave special permission. Spanish media say their three partners were also allowed off.

The rest of the passengers were barred from disembarking in the Spanish Canary Islands.

On March 13, officials said Puerto Rico’s first virus case was a 68-year-old Italian woman who arrived on the Costa Luminosa with symptoms. She was taken to a hospital in San Juan and confirmed to be infected. Puetro Rico’s government has since banned cruise ship dockings.

UN: Pandemic could cause 25 million job losses

The U.N.’s International Labor Organization estimates that fallout from the new coronavirus outbreak could cause nearly 25 million job losses and drain up to $3.4 trillion worth of income by the end of this year.

The Geneva-based agency said “an internationally coordinated policy response” could help mitigate such losses through worker protections, fiscal stimulus, and support for jobs and wages,

ILO laid out a number of scenarios on the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, estimating an increase in worldwide unemployment of between 5.3 million and 24.7 million people. That’s on top of the estimated 188 million that the agency had predicted late last year in its annual forecast.

The agency noted the global financial crisis boosted global unemployment by 22 million people.

“Falls in employment also mean large income losses for workers,” ILO said as it presented its preliminary assessment.

UNESCO: Half of world’s students out of school

UNESCO says around half the world’s student population is now out of school because of the global virus pandemic.

The latest school closures cover 102 countries with smaller, localized shutdowns in others for a total of 850 million students, from pre-schools to universities. A week ago, school shutdowns covered just 15 countries, the United Nations agency said.

UNESCO said Wednesday that education systems are using both high- and low-tech solutions to bridge the gaps, including video classes and radio programming.

The U.N.’s International Labor Organization, meanwhile, estimates that fallout from the coronavirus outbreak could cause nearly 25 million job losses worldwide and drain up to $3.4 trillion worth of income by the end of this year.

Trump says U.S., Canada agree to close border to ‘non-essential traffic’

A logging truck enters Woburn, Quebec from Coburn Gore, Maine in this 1995 photo. Associated Press/Scott Perry

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced the near closure of the Canadian border Wednesday, adding to severe coronavirus-related travel restrictions already affecting Asia and much of Europe.

“We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!” Trump tweeted.

The president is expected to speak in detail at a news conference scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Eastern.

The travel restrictions show the fast-moving threat from the new strain of coronavirus have severely curtailed international travel. Trump has also discouraged non-essential domestic travel and has said he is considering actions that could halt it entirely.

The administration is currently negotiating with congress on a stimulus bill that could exceed $1 trillion, with a large portion devoted to the airline industry, one of the most battered segments of the coronavirus economy.

Read the full story here.

Across U.S., a vast disparity in states’ responses to coronavirus

Mark Estee spent his Tuesday laying off 100 cooks, waiters and dishwashers, having been forced by city decree in Reno, Nev., to close two restaurants that had been thriving just days ago.

Less than an hour down the road, in Nevada’s Carson Valley, the threat of coronavirus had inspired no such restrictions. Estee’s three other restaurants were preparing to serve dinner, a hearty mix of pasta, burgers and beer.

Such is the state of America’s patchwork response to the virus sweeping the globe. In some places, governors, mayors and county leaders have instituted aggressive action that is changing the fabric of life: orders to stay at home, business bans and school closures. In other spots, authorities have been far more lenient, allowing routines to carry on more or less as normal.

The divide in responses showed some signs of narrowing Tuesday: Nevada’s governor announced the shutdown of restaurants, bars and casinos late Tuesday evening. The governor of West Virginia did the same, and he appeared chastened as he announced that his state had become the 50th to record a coronavirus case.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) had downplayed the risk as late as Monday night, saying at an evening news conference that “if you want to go to Bob Evans and eat, go to Bob Evans and eat.”

In states that had already taken tough measures, the response only escalated: North Carolina’s Outer Banks announced it was setting up checkpoints to keep nonresidents out of the popular barrier islands. New York’s mayor said he was considering ordering the city’s nearly 9 million people to stay at home, as San Francisco did a day earlier.

But in other states, another day passed without the sort of robust action that public health officials say is needed to stem the virus’s spread.

The disparities across the country set the U.S. response apart from that of nations that have moved in a unified way to try to tamp down outbreaks. The gaps are increasingly drawing the ire of state and local officials who have acted decisively to halt the spread, but worry that their efforts will be for naught if their neighbors don’t follow suit — and if Washington doesn’t act more proactively to set the tone.

Read the full story here.

World virus infections hit 200,000; Borders jammed in Europe

BERLIN  — Desperate travelers choked European border crossings on Wednesday after nations implemented strict controls in an attempt to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, creating traffic jams miles long and slowing the passage of trucks carrying critical supplies.

APTOPIX_Germany_Virus_Outbreak_61470

Trucks are jammed on the motorway A4 near Bautzen, Germany on Tuesday. Because of the controls at the border with Poland, a traffic jam formed on the Autobahn 4 between Dresden and Goerlitz, which, according to police, had grown to a length of 40 kilometers by noon. Robert Michael/dpa via Associated Press

The number of people infected worldwide crested the 200,000 mark and deaths topped 8,000, with the number of people now recovered at more than 82,000, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

In an attempt to alleviate some of the pressure from eastern Europeans stuck in Austria trying to return home, Hungary overnight opened its borders in phases. Bulgarian citizens were first allowed to cross in carefully controlled convoys, then Romanians had a turn.

But by early Wednesday on the Austrian side of the border, trucks were backed up for 28 kilometers (17 miles) and cars for 14 kilometers (nearly 9 miles) as rules allowing only Hungarians or transport trucks through the country’s borders kicked back in.

European Union leaders have been working on how to make sure that food, medical supplies and other essential goods keep flowing but so far borders have been clogged. Looking ahead, they’re also trying to figure out ways to allow seasonal agricultural workers, needed to keep the production of food going, to travel back and forth across essentially closed borders.

Nations around the world were facing the same issues, with the U.S. and Canada working on a mutual ban on nonessential travel between the two countries.

U.S. prison inmates fearful of virus argue for release

NEW YORK — Coronavirus has become a “get out of jail” card for hundreds of low-level inmates across the country, and even hard-timers are seeking their freedom with the argument that it’s not a matter of if but when the deadly illness sweeps through tightly packed populations behind bars.

Among those pleading for compassionate release or home detention are the former head of the Cali drug cartel, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff and dozens of inmates at New York City’s Rikers Island, part of a jail system that lost an employee to the virus this week.

“He is in poor health. He is 81 years old,” David Oscar Markus, the attorney for cocaine kingpin Gilberto Rodriguez-Orejuela, wrote in emergency court papers this week seeking his release after serving about half of a 30-year drug-trafficking sentence. “When (not if) COVID-19 hits his prison, he will not have much of a chance.”

While widespread outbreaks of coronavirus behind bars have yet to happen, the frenzy of legal activity underscores a crude reality that’s only beginning to sink in: America’s nearly 7,000 jails, prisons and correction facilities are an ideal breeding ground for the virus, as dangerous as nursing homes and cruise ships but far less sanitary.

Stepped-up cleanings and a temporary halt to visitations at many lockups across the country in the midst of the crisis can’t make up for the fact that ventilation behind bars is often poor, inmates sleep in close quarters and share a small number of bathrooms.

“Simply put, it’s impossible to do social distancing,” said David S. Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor in Miami.

The 81-year-old Madoff, who is serving a 150-year sentence for bilking thousands of investors in a $17.5 billion Ponzi scheme, had just asked last month to be released early in light of his terminal kidney disease. Now his attorney is calling on all at-risk federal prisoners to be released for their own safety because of the coronavirus.

“The federal prison system has consistently shown an inability to respond to major crises,” Madoff attorney Brandon Sample told The Associated Press. “My concerns are even more amplified for prisoners at federal medical centers and those who are aged.”

Read the full story here.

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